Population Aging: It’s Not Just the Baby Boom

Alicia H. Munnell

IB#16

Introduction

The retirement of the baby boom – those people born between 1946 and 1964 – is almost upon us. The leading edge of this famous cohort turns 62 in 2008. With the aging of the baby boom, the population of the nation is about to gray rapidly over the next three decades. The purpose of the brief is to put the baby boom and its impact on population aging in perspective. Specifically, the baby boom is not the reason for the aging of the population; the aging is the result of long-term trends of increasing longevity and declining fertility. The bust/boom/bust pattern in fertility rates that resulted in the baby boom simply changes the path to an older society. Thus, the baby boom is not “a pig in a python,” a somewhat graphic metaphor frequently used to suggest that the large cohort is just passing through, and life will return to normal once the last member dies. Rather, the nation is facing a permanent change in its demographic profile…